Category Archives: Security

Who’s your daddy, now?

Hello Big Daddy!

If we read our digital propaganda correctly, then we should all be over the moon after learning that a fresh day dawns on the global circuitry that tracks our every move, intentions and even aspirations.

Welcome, fellow plebes, to the era of big claims and big mouths – to the age of ‘Big Daddy’ (also known as Big Data), with all of its magnificent liens on our vanishing sense of privacy.

Mindless of any threat, existential or otherwise, Big Daddy’s acolytes were front and centre-stage this week in Saint John extolling the virtues of collecting, parsing, analyzing, and recruiting – in the service of capitalist enterprises and nosey governments – our personal information.

On the occasion of Big Data Congress II in New Brunswick’s port city, local show promoter Marc Fraser (executive vice-president of T4G) effused, “It’s about the phenomena that we have here in Atlantic Canada, which is being able to continually punch above our weight when it comes to technical capability and entrepreneurial capability.”

Not ready to be outmatched in the time-honoured craft of cliche production (reader note: no big data required for that particular exercise) T4G’s president Geoff Flood offered this bromide: “It’s all about understanding the opportunity to use Big Data to change the world, improve businesses and build opportunities right here.”

Not for nothing, but who are they kidding?

The phrase, ‘Big Data’, has been slinking around the edges of the Internet since before the George W. Bush administration declared war on the wrong Middle Eastern country in 2003 (thank you Big-Daddy CIA and NSA miners for completely missing the point of your 15 minutes of fame).

The fact is almost no one knows what to do with these petabytes of information on everything from my ridiculous love affair with slim jeans readily available at the Moncton outlet of The Gap to ex-spy-in-exile Edward Snowdon’s rather more substantial revelations about spooks, creeps and authorized assassins of world peace.

Still, the official, meaningless bafflegab spills from the mouths of the babes we elect to purportedly represent us with, at least, some modicum of intelligent reflection. Oh dear, what was that you were saying Premier David Alward to Big Daddy Congress Part Deux the other night? Something about “collaboration and co-ordination”, perhaps?

As it happens, that’s the last thing your audience wants. And unless you’ve figured out a way to use Big Data to rescue the province from its impending fiscal doom, it’s the last thing you should want either.

In fact, there is almost nothing about this phenomenon – this gargantuan belch of information collected and floating in the electronic stratosphere – that lends itself to fair, egalitarian or democratic purpose.

“Big data. It’s the latest IT buzzword, and it isn’t hard to see why,” writes John Jordan in an October 2013 edition of the Wall Street Journal. “The ability to parse more information, faster and deeper, is allowing companies, governments, researchers and others to understand the world in a way they could only dream about before.”

But, he says, (and it’s a big but), “Big data. . .introduces high stakes to the data-analytics game. There’s a greater potential for privacy invasion, greater financial exposure in fast-moving markets, greater potential for mistaking noise for true insight, and a greater risk of spending lots of money and time chasing poorly defined problems or opportunities. . .Unless we understand, and deal with, these challenges, we risk turning all that data from something that has the potential to enhance our organizations into a diversion, an illusion or a paralyzing turf battle.”

Or worse.

Consider Cindy Waxer’s reporting in Computer World a year ago. “Hip clothing retailer Urban Outfitters is facing a class-action lawsuit for allegedly violating consumer protection laws by telling shoppers who pay by credit card that they had to provide their ZIP codes – which is not true – and then using that information to obtain the shoppers’ addresses,” she wrote.

“Facebook is often at the center of a data privacy controversy, whether it’s defending its own enigmatic privacy policies or responding to reports that it gave private user data to the National Security Agency (NSA). And the story of how retail behemoth Target was able to deduce that a teenage shopper was pregnant before her father even knew is the stuff of marketing legend.”

Big Daddy, to satisfy your insatiable appetite, how creepy must our lives finally become?

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Big Brother’s eyes are everywhere

Birds of a feather?

Birds of a feather?

I summon a certain phrase whenever the world’s Internet-traveling tech companies assert their moral authority to protect their millions upon millions of customers from Big Government’s snoops and sneaks: something about foxes guarding henhouses.

In ads in major newspapers across the U.S., and on dozens of websites, Google, Microsoft, Apple, AOL, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Yahoo (call them the eight horsemen of the digital apocalypse) have announced a new consortium, the purpose of which is to pressure governments everywhere to stop the growing practice of warrantless and unaccountable spying.

That’s a little like asking a gossip to keep a secret. Nevertheless, here’s what they say: “We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual – rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.”

What’s more, and for their part, “We are focused on keeping users’ data secure –deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope. We urge the U.S. to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight.”

All of which raises but one question: Do these 100th-of-a-one-percenters, these brilliant geeks who, in some cases, kissed off their Ivy League educations to make billions of bucks in the open market, seriously think we buy their pieties about personal privacy? This is all about business, pure and simple.

That’s what Google CEO Larry Page means when he observes that “the security of users’ data is critical, which is why we’ve invested so much in encryption and fight for transparency around government requests for information. This is undermined by the apparent wholesale collection of data, in secret and without independent oversight, by many governments around the world. It’s time for reform, and we urge the U.S. government to lead the way.”

In fact, the productive relationship between government R&D and the technology sector, has produced most, if not all, of the communications innovations of the past 75 years. That includes everything from the application software that makes your smart phone chatter on command to the Internet, itself. Separating these partners in this continuum of invention would be akin to extracting chlorine from a swimming pool.

What’s at stake is the integrity of Big Data – a jewell so profoundly valuable in the tech world that anything that might cause a public (i.e. consumer) rebellion against its collection and deployment in the service of capitalist enterprise must be quelled. Simply put: When Big Brother overreaches, he hurts the bottom line.

Technology writer, Katherine Arline had this to say in a piece for mobile.pro last month: “Telecommunications equipment maker Cisco Systems announced an anticipated 8 to 10 per cent drop in revenue for the current quarter, sending shares tumbling 13 per cent . . .Cisco said concerns about network security in the wake of Edward Snowden’s disclosures fueled the decline.”

Specifically, Frank Calderone, the company’s CFO said he had seen “a significant increase in the ‘level of uncertainty or concern’ among international consumers. ‘I have never seen that fast a move in emerging markets,’ Calderone said. Cisco customers are concerned that the NSA has backdoors into network hardware from U.S. makers, and analysts think  that companies including IBM and Microsoft are also at risk. Jim Lewis, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, told Reuters that more U.S. companies are likely to be affected. ‘All the big U.S. IT companies are concerned,’ Lewis said. ‘But so far Cisco is bearing the brunt.’”

It may be true that the allegations against the National Security Agency – that it routinely and illegally snoops on average folks by extracting data from unwilling tech companies who must, nevertheless, comply with its edicts – are exaggerated.

But in an industry where reputations are everything and brand loyalty is paramount, perceptions are even more important than reality. Internet-traveling tech companies playing the role of public defender No. 1 is great spin.

Indeed, it might even work.

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All our spies have come in from the cold

The light of democracy is dimming

The light of democracy is dimming

Former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden’s suggestion that this country’s espionage establishment colluded, perhaps illegally, with its U.S. counterpart to spy on allied nations – in peace time, away from the mayhem of battle, during the G20 summit in Toronto – is troubling.

But no more than what appears to be a growing consensus of reaction in Canada, as we trip over the shards of our democracy to pat ourselves on the back for our newfound swagger: good, old guts and glory to the rescue.

“If it wasn’t for our laws, and police forces and military employed to enforce those laws, the world as we know it would implode on itself,” a letter writer to a recent edition of The Globe and Mail observes. “To be able to monitor and catch the bad guys, we have to know what they’re doing and thinking. Of course we are going to spy. The bad guys are spying on us.”

Against which, this corner of the peanut gallery offers no argument. Only a complete naif would suggest otherwise. The distressing bit comes in the next sentence: “The media should be praising Canada for allowing the U.S. to spy. How else can we keep the world sane and without violence?”

Once upon a time in this country and in others, polite company considered spying on one’s friends to be. . .well, impolite, especially if such surveillance was also explicitly illegal. (The Government of Canada, it should be noted, denies any of this sort of wrongdoing). The whole cloak-and-dagger business, while a necessary evil, wasn’t something about which to crow like a cockerel in heat.

We were proud of our diplomats who helped write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We were proud of our prime ministers, such as Lester Pearson who was instrumental in creating United Nation Peacekeeping. We were proud of our scientists, engineers, teachers, and environmentalists; of our clergy, philosophers and writers. From time to time, we were even proud of our politicians – those who were able to muster the courage to shatter the status quo in the interests of a more civil society.

We certainly weren’t proud of the means by which our clandestine operatives obtained the ends of their shadowy missions either abroad or at home.

Times, however, have changed. They have become more discernibly black and white, as the once vast grey zone of dialogue, discourse, negotiation and conciliation in politics has vanished as utterly as has the middle class in society.

Today, we we are forced to choose between good and evil, rich and poor, criminals and victims, strength and weakness, resistance and compliance, national pride and wobbly thinking in the loathsome salons of the liberal elite.

Today, in this country, loose, unapproved talk about defending the environment from the depredations of a careless commercial sector – once a splendid exercise in participatory democracy – is tantamount to treason, punishable by several lashes of a government official’s tongue.

The oil must flow as surely as the pipelines must be built. As for the safety and security of the communities through which we send our dirty crude, leave that to the men in charge. They know best.

Today, from this country, international affairs gets bundled and exported to the world as a byproduct of something called “economic diplomacy”.

Gone is the emphasis on poverty reduction, human rights, child welfare and disease control. Welcome a new, golden age of liberalized trade for Canadian companies seeking to plant their corporate staffs in emerging markets, including those of China and India, Russia and Brazil.

Through these adventurous small and medium-sized businesses, Canada will achieve the greatness it so richly deserves and could never hope to acquire under any other sort of government than one that truly understands the prideful heart that beats strong and true in the breast of all “real” Canadians – those who, let’s just say, do not vote for Hollywood-handsome, marijuana-smoking mop-tops.

In this fresh impression of the cosmos, Canada’s spy agencies are not cabals of itinerant villains; they are chambers of patriots and heroes, as long as the information they obtain about our “friends” continues to elevates the nation’s interest.

And, apparently, by any means necessary.

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Big Brother wants a blood test

The truth has gone to ground

The truth has gone to ground

The only aspect of Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s flirtation with the notion of sampling and storing the DNA of suspects to serious crimes is its undue caution. Why stop there, with the merely apprehended? Why not cast that genetic dragnet across the entire country, capturing the guilty and innocent, alike?

Somehow, you suspect, that’s an itch he’s just dying to scratch.

“I know there’s always privacy considerations,” he tells the Globe and Mail this week, though he says they are in the background. “It has to balanced in the bigger picture. But I think that, you know, the timing of the taking of DNA is something that could very well emerge in the future as another issue of importance.”

It’s a crying shame, he seems to be saying, that “right now we’re limited to taking it (DNA) on conviction. It could be expanded to take on arrest, like a fingerprint. . .I maintain that, you know, a genetic fingerprint is no different and could be used in my view as an investigative tool.”

Oh really, Mr. Minister?

Here’s what my fingerprints, on file with the RCMP, can tell the cops: My name and address. With this information, they can find me without too much trouble in the time it takes me to plunder my bank account en route to the car dealership.

On the other hand, according to a source in the Guardian not long ago, here’s what my DNA can tell them: The colour of my hair and eyes, my gender, whether or not I am an insomniac, how long I’m likely to live, whether or not I have a propensity towards obesity, the degree to which I am at risk of developing certain types of cancer, Huntington’s Chorea and Parkinson’s disease.

If I am an unwilling guest at one of Canada’s finer penal institutions, then I should properly expect to lose any right to privacy I might have imagined for myself. But if I have not been convicted of any crime – only arrested on suspicion of having committed an offence – what gives the state the prerogative to profile me in such exquisite detail and keep a record of this information until the sun goes nova?

As William Trudell of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence told the Globe, “It’s really sort of cataloguing the innocent. Until someone is found guilty, the presumption of innocence really has to mean something.”

In fact, Mr. MacKay is coming somewhat late to Big Brother’s most recent soiree. This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of law enforcement officials in 28 states to collect DNA from suspects who have not yet been charged of serious crimes. An item in thinkprogress.org states that “the 5-4 ruling overrules a state court determination that Maryland’s DNA collection law permits unconstitutionally invasive searches. . .Justice Antonin Scalia warns in a dissent joined by three of the court’s more liberal justices that the court’s reasoning would apply equally to someone accused of any crime or violation at all: ‘Make no mistake about it. As an entirely predictable consequence of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.’”

The implications have alarmed more than one American jurist. In a commentary, published by the Chicago Tribune last month, former Las Vegas district court judge Jackie Glass observed, “The Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures and requires warrants to be issued based on probable cause. This Maryland v. King decision will allow for warrantless searches to occur based on failed logic. Justice Kennedy and his majority owed American citizens a better justification. Using DNA for standard identification is unnecessary and makes no sense.”

Still, on one level, it makes perfect sense.

In the absence of true leadership, in the presence of failed social policy, politicians are always on the prowl for the enemy within. Now, with a handy DNA test, indiscriminately administered, they can prove that the enemy is us – guilty by association with the code written into our genes.

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Canada the war-friender?

Death in Dhaka...600 and counting

Death by unregulated guns…500-million triggers and counting

 

To the bemusement of many career diplomats and most human rights groups, standing apart – alone and aloof – has become the Canadian government’s preferred modus operandi to the United Nations.

In fact, one of the few truly substantial differences between the Tories in power and their Grit predecessors has been their unconcealed animus towards most things UN-related. The organization, they seem to believe, is broken, inefficient, hypocritical, duplicitous and needlessly bureaucratic. Worse, this cradle for the international community allows far too much license to rogue nations, and not enough to democratic, peaceful ones.

They have a point. But the federal Conservative regime would not be the first government in the world to question the value of its country’s membership. The organization is as flawed, or virtuous, as are its fellow states. Canada’s role and opportunity has always been to engage by setting a moral example – something which, until recently, it has been demonstrably willing to do.

The Harper government’s decision to delay signing the UN Arms Trade Treaty, which seeks to regulate international shipments of conventional weapons worth as much as $70 billion a year, is lamentably ironic. While it laudably pledges $3-billion pledge to improve the welfare of mothers and children around the world, the unfettered arms trade decimates the very people the Department of Foreign Affairs would otherwise help.

Even the United States, with its lock-and-load gun culture, has signed on to the Treaty, making it the 91st country to do so. “We are talking about the kind of export controls that for decades have not diminished one iota our ability in the United States as Americans to exercise our rights under the constitution,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said of his nation’s decision last week. “This treaty will not diminish anyone’s freedom. . . .Make no mistake, we would never think about supporting a treaty that is inconsistent with the rights of Americans, the rights of American citizens to be able to exercise their guaranteed rights under our constitution.”

Ottawa’s position suggests it is not as certain about the safeguards protecting this country’s gun owners. According to the Globe and Mail last week, “Rick Roth, a spokesman for (Foreign Affairs Minister John) Baird, said Ottawa is still studying whether joining the accord would have consequences for Canadians. “It is important that such a treaty not affect lawful and responsible firearms owners nor discourage the transfer of firearms for recreational uses such as sport shooting and hunting.”

That’s fair as far as it goes. But while the federal government waits, the arms trade continues its vile business in some of the world’s poorest nations.

In his book, Public Corruption; The Dark Side of Social Evolution, Robert Neild of Cambridge University observes, “It has been estimated that there are now about 500 million small arms and light weapons in circulation in the world, one for every twelve people. Gone long ago is the time when we Europeans could subdue other continents because we had firearms and the local peoples had not. In 1999 it was reported that an AK-47 assault rifle could be bought in Uganda for the price of a chicken.”

Amnesty International states on its website, “War crimes, unlawful killings, torture and other serious human rights abuses have been committed around the world using a wide range of weapons, munitions and military and security equipment. These are often provided to perpetrators in almost unlimited supply, encouraging and prolonging unlawful violence. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, injured, raped and forced to flee from their homes as a result.”

Appallingly, says the organization, “Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of children under 18. . .are recruited into government armed forces, paramilitaries, civil militia and a variety of other armed groups.  Often they are abducted at school, on the streets or at home. Others enlist ‘voluntarily’, usually because they see few alternatives.”

Like it or not, the UN is the proper deliberative body through which to combat such turpitude.

Notwithstanding its distaste for the organization, Ottawa should set an example and ratify the Treaty.

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Tinker, tailor, techie, spy

DSC_0162

Amidst the swirl of revelations this summer about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) prying eyes and ears, a quote stands out to neatly summarize the hoi polloi’s rising sense of panic and paranoia.

The NSA’s intelligence “capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.”

In the wrong hands, this might even “enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.”

This sounds like the sort of thing a civil liberties advocate, an apologist for the Julian Assanges and Edward Snowdons of the world, or even a Tea-Party Republican might utter in these nervous tween years of the 21st century. But the words aren’t theirs. They belong to a Democratic senator from Idaho by the name of Frank Church, who issued them in 1975 after he had concluded an investigation of the agency.

I came across them in a 2005 New York Times story whose author made his own observations about the NSA. “At the time (of Sen. Church’s scrutiny), the agency had the ability to listen to only what people said over the telephone or wrote in an occasional telegram; they had no access to private letters,” wrote James Bamford. “But today, with people expressing their innermost thoughts in e-mail messages, exposing their medical and financial records to the Internet, and chatting constantly on cellphones, the agency virtually has the ability to get inside a person’s mind. . .Originally created to spy on foreign adversaries. . .The NSA s original target had been the Communist bloc. . .(it) was never supposed to be turned inward.”

All of which proves, if nothing else, that people’s memories truly are short. Experts and activists have been broadcasting warnings about the NSA and other supposedly super-secret spy masters for decades. Apart from a few Internet-enabled advances in the field of information gathering, the abuses – or potential for abuses – they worried about then are the ones they worry about today. That’s because while technology may change, human nature does not.

Still, technology can stack the deck and up the ante. Somebody writing on wiki.answers.com once ruminated that the Internet might contain one yottabyte of data. That’s roughly 1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176 bytes of increasingly worthless chum and chatter. But unlike an old-school telegram or piece of reel-to-reel audio tape, it never decays, never goes away. It just sits there in mines located around the world waiting for some government-empowered slob to make some other slob’s life sheer hell.

Technology is also an irresistible force for mischief. The NSA, for example, is prohibited by law from spying on the UN. And yet, according to Reuters this week, “The (agency) has bugged the United Nations’ New York headquarters, Germany’s Der Spiegel weekly said on Sunday in a report on American spying that could further strain relations between Washington and its allies. . .Der Spiegel said the files showed how the United States systematically spied on other states and institutions. . .Der Spiegel said the European Union and the UN’s Vienna-based nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, were among those targeted by U.S. intelligence agents.”

History demonstrates time and again that the tools we craft to make our lives easier or more interesting inevitably lead many of us into some kind of moral turpitude. Privacy may be a basic right. But if it’s easy to curtail and no one gets hurt (that we know of), then what’s the harm?

About the only recourse we who do not belong to the ironically termed “intelligence community” have is to bang our drums loudly. Consider U.S. Congressman Alan Grayson who intends to introduce his “Mind Your Own Business Act” in short order. The legislation, part tongue-in-cheek and part serious, demands that “none of the funds authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available to the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2014 or any succeeding fiscal year may be used to collect any information generated by a citizen of the United States while located in the United States.”

He and his Bill may be doomed. But, at least, he’s not going quietly.

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Where did all the bad guys go?

DSC_0153

Enamored as it is by the sound of its own panic alarm, the federal government will have a hard time justifying its contention that Canada is riding a crime wave in the wake of new data that show just the opposite.

“The police-reported crime rate, which measures the overall volume of crime that came to the attention of police, continued a long-term decline in 2012, falling three per cent from 2011,” Statistics Canada reported last week. “The Crime Severity Index (CSI). . .also decreased three per cent.”

In fact, the numbers-crunching agency says that the crime rate in Canada has “reached its lowest level” in 41 years. The CSI, meanwhile, was off 28 per cent from 2002, with 415,000 incidents of violence in 2012.

Still, one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s signature social policies is his “tough-on-crime” agenda, made manifest by omnibus Bill C-10 (now the Safe Streets and Communities Act), which places unusual emphasis on the so-called rights of victims.

A government website outlines the guts of the legislation, thusly:

“Part 1 creates a new act entitled the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act;

Part 2 amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) and the Criminal Code; Part 3 amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), the International Transfer of Offenders Act and the Criminal Records Act; Part 4 amends the Youth Criminal Justice Act; and part 5 amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. . .Part 3 . . .makes changes to the CCRA’s principles (and) reforms in four main areas: Enhancing sharing of information with victims; increasing offender responsibility and accountability; strengthening the management of offenders and their reintegration; and modernizing disciplinary actions.”

One of the legislation’s features that continues to stick in the collective craw of community activists, family welfare advocates and even a few international observers is the unreasonably harsh treatment it metes out to young offenders. Last year, The Canadian Press reported, “The UN committee on the rights of the child has finished a 10-year review of how Canada treats its children and how well governments are implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In particular, the committee says Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act complied with international standards until changes were introduced earlier this year.”

Specifically, CP indicated, “Bill C-10 ‘is excessively punitive for children and not sufficiently restorative in nature,’ the committee wrote in a report. ‘The committee also regrets there was no child rights assessment or mechanism to ensure that Bill C-10 complied with the provisions of the convention.’ The committee also repeatedly expressed its concern that aboriginal and black children are dramatically overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Aboriginal youth are more likely to be jailed than graduate from high school, the report said.”

Flash forward to the present day, and here’s what Stats Can stipulates on the subject on youth crime in this country: “Police reported that just over 125,000 youth aged 12 to 17 were accused of a criminal offence in 2012, about 11,000 less than the previous year. The youth accused rate fell seven per cent while the youth CSI declined six per cent.”

What’s more, “The majority of youth accused in 2012 were involved in non-violent incidents. The most common type of youth crime was theft of $5,000 and under, committed by 18 per cent of youth accused. Common assault (level 1) was the most common type of violent offence committed by youth in 2012, accounting for 11 per cent of youth accused. Other relatively common offences committed by youth were mischief (11 per cent), administration of justice violations (10 per cent) and cannabis possession (10 per cent). In 2012, 44 per cent of youth accused were formally charged by police, the rest were dealt with by other means under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.”

All of which paints a somewhat more wholesome picture of Canadian society – one that is, in fact, broadly consistent with those of other developed nations, where crime rates are also dropping – than the red meat crowd in Ottawa would have us believe.

If course, power politics is about nothing if not inventing problems to solve.

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Spying minds really want to know

Is what lies beneath enough?

Who’s got the dirt on you?

Good morning, pipsqueak. This is your big brother calling. How are you doing? Feeling good and rested, ready to take on the world? Sure you are. You’re going to seize the day, follow your bliss, as they say – just as soon as you gulp down that happy pill your doctor prescribed for you last month.

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you junior? Remember that afternoon three weeks ago, when the paramedics had to scrape you off the pavement outside the grocery store, following your 19th nervous breakdown?

Didn’t think I’d find out about that, did you? Never mind. I know a lot of things about you and just about everybody else in this ridiculous country of fools and sleepwalkers who believe that just because I scrapped the long-form census, I give a fig about your personal privacy. What a joke, which is, at it happens, entirely on you.

How’s that new car working out for you? You know. . .the one you bought with four credit cards because your wife wouldn’t let you raid the kids’ college fund. I bet she was mighty cheesed off when you rolled up in that baby. In fact, I know she was because that’s what she told some guy named Hank, with whom she’s having an online relationship. Oops, have I said too much? Listen, pal, a word to the wise. . .what’s good for the gander is good for the goose. Just saying, is all.

Speaking of birds of a feather, you know that chum three cubicles over from you at work? He’s the one with whom you’ve been collaborating for months on that big presentation to your company’s brass. Don’t trust him. He’s planning to stab you in the back, take credit for your ideas and sell you down the river as a lazy no-nothing. Fact is, all he does all day is play computer solitaire when he’s not following Lindsay Lohan on Twitter. Hope that’s useful to you. Your welcome.

Truth is, I care about you bro’. I care about the fact that you lied on your resume where you claimed to have a degree from the University of Toronto whereas you actually have a diploma from the Community College of Tofino. I care about the fact that you list your hobbies as golf, marathon running and skydiving instead of tap dancing, gardening and ventriloquism. You really should be more circumspect.

Not that I plan to do anything with such information. In the scheme of things, you’re just not that interesting, let alone important. I’ve got enough work scrutinizing the “metadata” stemming from the Internet comings and goings and phone calls of millions of other citizens through the Communications Security Establishment Canada. Technically, I’m not “allowed” to listen in on actual conversations or surveil specific emails and text messages. But, well. . .you know. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat.

As my buddy Ronald Deibert might say: “Don’t kid yourself.” In fact, the U of T political science professor and expert on global security did sort of say that in a commentary he penned for the Globe and Mail on Tuesday, to wit: “What is metadata? Take my mobile phone. Even when I’m not using it, when it’s just sitting in my pocket or on my desk, it emits an electronic pulse every few seconds to the nearest wifi router or cellphone tower that includes a kind of digital biometric tag.”

So what, you might say. So, don’t be so stupid. Or, as Mr. Deibert notes, “Think metadata is trivial compared to content? Think again. MIT researchers who studied 15 months of anonymized cellphone metadata of 1.5 million people found four ‘data points’ were all they needed to figure out a person’s identity 95 per cent of the time. In 2010, German Green Party politician Malte Spitz and Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper requested all of the metadata from Mr. Spitz’s phone carrier, Deutsch Telekom. The company sent back a CD containing 35,830 lines of code.”

Anyway, goofball, try to take better care of yourself this summer. I notice you’ve been hitting Amazon.com of late for some reading material. Might I suggest you start with Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” and end with George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. Either or both are excellent field guides for the shape of things to come.

That’s it for now.

We’ll talk again soon.

That’s a promise, pipsqueak.

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